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Popular Indonesian dishes reflect diversity of the islands

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Popular Indonesian dishes reflect diversity of the islands

090624_21.jpg
090624_21.jpg

Warung Bali restaurant offers one of Phnom Penh’s finest examples of

Indonesia’s unique cuisine, along with traditional culture and hospitality

Photo by: Sovann Philong

Warung Bali restaurant, on Street 178 west of Sothearos Boulevard.

TUCKED away amid several fried noodle shops on Street 178 near Sothearos is a small unassuming restaurant with simple, plastic-covered tables and wooden chairs. At first glance, one might be forgiven for mistaking it for another Khmer eatery, but in fact Warung Bali is one of Phnom Penh's finest examples of the unique cuisine of Indonesia.

Indonesia is a nation made up of more than 6,000 islands, a population of approximately 240 million people, and more than 300 ethnic groups. Thus, it is no surprise that the food from this vast archipelago reflects the diversity of its islands.

At Warung Bali, native Javanese owners Pirdaos and Kasmin offer some of the most popular Indonesian dishes, along with a little bit of Indonesian culture.

"When I moved here 13 years ago, there were not many places to eat Indonesian food," said Kasmin from the small but bustling eatery.

"My boss at that time decided to open Bali Cafe on the riverside, and it did well, but the prices were a bit high. When it closed two years ago, I saw the opportunity to open up a small warung (Indonesian for a small family-owned restaurant) where we could offer authentic Indonesian food at lower prices," he added.

Kasmin said that, although he doesn't make a lot of profit from the food sales, his restaurant does well due to the sheer numbers of customers, mostly made up of Indonesian travellers and expatriates, as well as Western customers.

"Indonesian food is similar to Khmer food in some ways, but in other ways very different," Kasmin said. "For example, Indonesian food can be much spicier than Khmer food, and the meat is often marinated in a variety of spices before cooking. Also, the soy sauce is sweeter and thicker. In fact we make our own soy sauce here in the traditional Indonesian style."

On the menu

Warung Bali's most popular menu item is the ayam bakar kecap Bali, tender, marinated chunks of chicken on the bone, grilled and smothered in Kasmin's homemade soy sauce with a hint of coconut and garlic, and garnished with fresh chilli and peanuts.

Other popular dishes include gado gado, a salad of lightly steamed vegetables such as crisp, green string beans, crunchy cabbage leaves and sliced potatoes in a fragrant peanut, chilli and lime sauce; and sate sapi, marinated grilled beef skewers served with spicy Indonesian peanut sauce and sweet soy sauce.

"These dishes come from all over Indonesia, not just Bali," Kasmin said. "Different dishes originated in different regions, although they are eaten widely throughout Indonesia. For example, the gado gado is a Jakarta-inspired dish, and the sate ayam (chicken satay) originates from Madura in East Java."

As Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation,  much of the food outside of the small island of Bali is Halal, and Warung Bali is no exception despite its name.

"You will never find pork, frog or dog here," Kasmin said.

Dishes at Warung Bali are a bargain, ranging from 6,000 riels (US$1.50) to 10,000 riels for portions large enough to be shared with friends or family.

Taste of Indonesia

Kasmin and Pirdaos also offer customers a taste of the culture of Indonesia at the cafe, with authentic Indonesian paintings and batik hangings on the walls, and a large wooden table, loaded with books and magazines containing information about their native country.

Part of the restaurant's popularity also comes from the open and affable nature of the owners, who are quick to offer a broad smile to newcomers and who never forget a face.

Service is quick, easy-going and reliable.

For a taste of Indonesia at bargain prices visit Warung Bali at 25Eo Street 178, or call 012 967 480.

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